Book publishing meets YouTube

Books, Culture, Uncategorized, Writing

If you’re a YouTube star with a robust fan base, you just got one step closer to publishing a book.

This NYTimes article from yesterday is all about a new imprint called Keywords Press — a joint venture between Simon & Schuster’s Atria Publishing Group and the Hollywood United Talent Agency — that wants to publish books by YouTube entertainers.

Judith Curr, the president and publisher of Atria, says signing YouTube celebrities “gives us access to a whole new talent pool.” Credit Nancy Borowick for The New York Times

Judith Curr, the president and publisher of Atria, says signing YouTube celebrities “gives us access to a whole new talent pool.” Credit Nancy Borowick for The New York Times

There is precedence for YouTube stars to publish books, and it is common practice for book publishers to mine for manuscripts from well-known individuals with built-in followings, but it’s really interesting to see a whole imprint dedicated to the gambit and to even tweak their publishing models to follow YouTube-like practices; most of these books will be crowdsourced, and they’ll be shot out into the marketplace faster than other books.

In the article, iJustine (one of five YouTube stars who have already signed deals with Keywords) says, “I’ve always wanted to write a book, but the proposal process is kind of crazy [….] I would say, ‘Why can’t I just do it?’ That’s what we are used to doing online.'”

I just hope these YouTubers are also good writers. Having a talent for making videos and a ready-made audience is great, but there’s something to be said for having the chops to write well, too. Being sellable shouldn’t be the only prerequisite to getting published. I also hope there’s still room in the publishing industry for all the aspiring authors who haven’t had time to build their own customer bases because they were, you know, busy learning how to write a good book.


Travelbots? Droid Guides? Virtu-Travel?

Travel, Writing

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about taking a trip (it’s been a while), but I’m not sure where to go that would be within my budget and still be adventurous. This morning on my way to work, I was thinking how great it would be to pay Nature a visit. Grand vistas. Tall mountains. Majestic rivers. And then I remembered that it’s winter for everyone above Florida, and also how I hate camping and inclines and stuff.

So, wouldn’t it be lovely if I could experience the majesty of travelling through the Rockies via some kind of android surrogate? It would be exactly like being there — I could breathe in the cool, fresh air, and reach down and feel the shrubbery (shrubbery? I have no idea what the Rockies are like), without any of the hassle of actually going there.

That’s me in the middle.

Of course, this would require a very sophisticated android set-up, and some kind of sensory deprivation tank to sit inside… Plus, I guess the same could be accomplished by a VR simulation. Or a really good IMAX movie. And I know it wouldn’t be exactly the same as being there, but at the very least, it’d be a cool promotional tool for travel agents, no?

Maybe I’ll just file this away for a possible future short story.


Ira Glass Says It All


I know Ira Glass’s (This American Life) interview on storytelling and the creative process has been circulated plenty already, but this little bit of kinetic typography from filmmaker David Shiyang Liu–detailing the part about the gap between your taste and your creative output–is kind of amazing, and worth sharing. (Link to the actual interview here.)

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.

From the Minds and Hearts of TV Writer Guys

Entertainment, Writing

At the risk of turning this blog into little more than the place where I post stuff so I can reference them later, here is an interesting blog post from Leverage co-showrunner John Rogers on writing for TV shows and the spectrum series fall along between “shows about emotions” and “shows about systems.”

On the subject of TV writing/showrunning, I would also recommend this episode of the Making It podcast, hosted by Riki Lindhome, that features man-after-my-heart Joss Whedon.

Besides finding this stuff interesting as a fan of serialized TV, I also find it really motivating. Hell, it’s enough to make me want to actually write something, as opposed to writing about writing FOR ONCE. (And, for the sake of disclosure, I like reading/listening to stuff like this because I believe this kind of discourse can apply, in limited ways, to other forms of writing, including novels. It’s all about story and characters, after all.)

Props to the Dialogue

Entertainment, Writing

I love this bit of dialogue from Boardwalk Empire (episode: “Broadway Limited“) for its brevity and how Nucky controls the scene. (This post is more for me than you. You’re welcome.)

How is he still alive after three days out in the cold?

He’s fat.

What the fuck’s that supposed to mean?

He’s insulated. I dunno. How the fuck should I know? The cold, and the buckshot–I’m no doctor.


I thought we killed them all.

‘Thought.’ Fuckin’ Aristotle. [To Eli] So, what are they doin’ to him?

What difference does it make? Guy’s got a hole in his stomach big as a grapefruit. He thaws out a little–he’s a goner.

Now you’re a doctor.

What are you mad at me for?

I’m late. Let nature take its course, help it along if you can. And you better hope he dies real soon.

Some things DON’T need to be said aloud (but I’m doing it anyway)


So, I wrote a really terrible YA horror novel when I was around 12 or 13. [Okay, confession: I was 12 AND 13, ’cause it took me a year to write it.] The whole thing was the result of consuming too many R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike novels, though I have no regrets.

Ten years later, I read a chapter from it at a session of Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids. AND! Luckily for me, the incomparable Laura Godfrey recorded the whole thing.

Now, luckily for you, I’ve decided to post it here. Enjoy!

Child of Evil: Chapter 15 by 12/13-year-old Zalina Alvi

P.S. Please remember that I wrote this as a child. Please.

NaNoWriMo Midterm Report


[Cross-posted on]

This is post is going to sound like one long excuse, but I’m abandoning my NaNoWriMo novel. Remember when I said I wanted to write something so I could enter it in the Terry Pratchett first novel contest? Well, I spent months trying to come up with a workable idea that fulfilled its requirements, and I thought I’d found one that was good enough to pursue, but after writing a little over 8,000 words this month, I’ve decided it would be a waste of time to continue forcing myself to work on an idea that I didn’t feel very strongly about. Writing is always incredibly hard work, but this was ridiculous; every sentence felt like pulling teeth. I just had no inspiration or motivation to continue. And now that I’ve decided to let it go, I don’t even feel bad about it; though I had put a lot of work into it, there was little worth salvaging.

Meanwhile, I’d been nursing a different idea for a sci-fi novel for a long time and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Though I figured I’d just work on it once I finished this manuscript, I ultimately decided that it wasn’t worth it – especially since I had little faith that I could produce a readable 80,000-word manuscript by Dec. 31. So I dropped my NaNoWriMo novel, and I’ve been working on my other idea with no set deadline in mind – and so far it’s been going really well.

What about meeting my NaNoWriMo goal? What about confronting this challenge? Sorry, but I never really cared about writing a novel in a month. My writing goals for the contest just happened to coincide with NaNoWriMo. Besides, I’ve done it before, and though it’s a great challenge for a lot of people who don’t allow themselves the luxury of pursuing their creative writing interests on a regular basis, I wasn’t really getting anything out of it that wasn’t servicing my Terry Pratchett aspirations. Personally, the act of writing is somewhat diminished by pursuing the all-important Word Count. That’s just not how I work. I need to think about what I’m writing each day before continuing, which takes time. Otherwise I’m left with a novel that, even pared down to its bare bones, doesn’t even meet my standards for something worth editing.

I don’t want to put NaNoWriMo down. It’s a great challenge that encourages people who don’t usually write to make time to finally write the novel that’s been at the back of their heads for – very probably – a long time. Me? I’m looking to make novel-writing something I do every month, not just in November.



[Cross-posted on]

For the third time, I’m participating in NaNoWriMo. The first time I did it, in high school, I didn’t finish. The second time, while I was doing my undergrad at York University, I was so swamped with schoolwork that it took me almost the entire month to write 10,000 words and then I pounded out the last 40,000 in about 3 or 4 days mostly because people didn’t believe that I could.

This year? This year, I want to write something so I can enter it for the Terry Pratchett Prize. Will I have a good shot at winning with something I wrote in just a few weeks? Maybe not. I have, however, put a lot of thought into the concept and outline, so I don’t think it will be terrible. In any case, my NaNoWriMo novel will at the very least be a good exercise in writing; it will get my creative juices flowing for whatever my next project is, perhaps.

In the meantime, this website really depressed me – though it may have some valid points – to the extent that I almost didn’t want to promote it by linking to it. In opposition to its general theme: writers should never be discouraged from the act of writing; though it may not always be literary gold, it has value in the act itself for the individual. It’s the job of the publishing industry to sort through the slush pile.

How does ANYONE do this?


Apparently the key to good, imaginative writing is to relax and have fun. That’s one of many conclusions drawn by YA novelist Carol Plum-Ucci in an essay she wrote for a Smart Pop Books anthology about Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle series. The essay’s called “Q: How Does a Fifteen-Year-Old Do This?” (which you can purchase for $0.99 US through that link). Plum-Ucci discusses how a writer’s imagination works in a general sense, with a focus on Paolini’s specific work in his boy-and-his-dragon novels. I guess a lot of people tend to wonder how a mere teenager was able to write such an amazing and imaginative novel.

Hold on. Before I go any further, let me clarify that a) I’ve read his first book, Eragon, and I didn’t think it was THAT great, and b) I was insanely jealous of him when it came out, having been an aspiring novelist (key word: aspiring) since I was 12. (He, along with Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, were my nemeses when I was a teenager, unbeknownst to them.) End side note.

So, Plum-Ucci takes a psychoanalytic look at how writer’s write, and ultimately comes to two conclusions. I’m sure I’ve heard similar theories about writing elsewhere, but the fact that it was about a fifteen-year-old writer that I once abhorred caught my attention.

The first conclusion she draws is that the dream centre, or the part of the brain that’s associated with ‘play time’, is largely associated with a writer’s creative process. That’s where character archetypes come from, as well as common symbols that tend to crop up throughout literature. These are the things readers relate to, because they’re common to all of us.

The second conclusion was this: in order to be a popular and therefore successful (I suppose) author, a writer must develop a writer-reader relationship by creating something that they enjoyed writing, so that the reader may enjoy reading it. Basically, you should trust your gut instinct about what’s interesting, what’s not and what works in your novel. If you spend all day analyzing what the “average reader” wants in a book, you’re bound to fail. Successful writers offer something that they would read themselves.

She also mentioned that writers who spent years studying writing were less likely to access that inner child; she said she knew hundreds of unpublished writers who spent years (in some cases, decades) studying the craft to no avail.

As I continue to spend my nights trying to capture something worthwhile on paper, I find myself trying unsuccessfully to turn on the ‘play centre’ of my brain. Once upon a time, I wrote a really crappy horror novel at the age of 12-going-on-13 as a result of consuming too many Christopher Pike and R. L. Stine novels. I recall spending hundreds of precious after-school/weekend hours at my computer writing simply for the sheer joy of it. I was having fun. It was probably because I had no internal editor telling me that what I was writing sucked. *sigh* Those were indeed the good ole’ days. I sent the manuscript to one publisher and after receiving a very nice rejection letter that explained that they don’t publish fiction, I never sent it anywhere else. Since then, I don’t think I’ve sincerely enjoyed writing creatively. Maybe that’s why I have so many unfinished novels in a very sad folder on my computer.

So, here is a follow-up question to Plum-Ucci’s essay. What if there’s a barrier between my typing fingers and my dream centre? What if my brain wants to spend more time thinking about what will sell than what would be fun to write? How do I let my imagination run wild?

Perhaps a better question is: if I’m not having fun, why am I doing this?